World Education News and Reviews

March 2010

Regional News


Erasmus Mundus a Success, but Future Funding Could be an Issue

Europe’s Erasmus Mundus scholarship program, which was introduced as a means of attracting top research talent from around the world to European universities and to promote the European Union as a global 'center of excellence' in learning, has been rated a success by an independent evaluation. The external evaluators of the 2004-08 program warned, however, that changes in financing may have to be made if it is to continue in its present form.

The five-year program was funded to the tune of 300 million euro (US$421 million), and it succeeded in bringing together top EU institutions of higher education to create and offer 103 new and innovative joint masters programs. The evaluation report notes that a majority of coordinators and partners currently participating in Erasmus Mundus do not believe the programs they are involved in could continue in their present form without continued EU funding.

As the long-term financing plan of Erasmus Mundus was to reduce scholarship funding with a move to self-sustainability of the projects, the report says that solutions will have to be found or many programs would cease to exist. In its call for new programs in the 2009-10 period, the European Commission put a strong emphasis on the need for programs to achieve self-sustainability.

Erasmus Mundus offers financial support for institutions and scholarships for graduate students from Europe and countries outside the EU. The report found the programs to be of a high quality and to have attracted large numbers of applications from third-country students.

- University World News
January 31, 2010

Times Higher Promises ‘Boring’ Global Rankings

Times Higher Education recently severed its ties with QS, the research firm that had previously collected and tabulated data for the newspaper's annual ranking of world universities, and in a recent editorial Phil Baty explains that while there will be big shifts in the standings this year as compared to last year, in future years the ranking is likely to be much more boring.

Stating that “magazines that compile league tables have an interest in instability - playing around with their methodologies to ensure rankings remain newsworthy,” Baty explains that the new Times ranking is more concerned with stability as that is much more the reality with regards to comparative standards than dramatic shifts. "Too much movement,” Baty states, “raises questions about credibility: everyone knows that it takes more than 12 months for an 800-year-old university to lose its status, or for a young pretender to ascend the heights.”

- Times Higher Education
February 25, 2010

EUA Releases 2010 Bologna Trends Report Showing that New Degree Structures Have Taken Hold

The European University Association issued its sixth Bologna stocktaking report in March based on surveys of 821 universities and 27 national rectors’ conferences. Because the surveys are similar to ones conducted in previous years, the data provide for longitudinal comparisons.

The Trends 2010 study shows clearly that the basic Bologna degree structure – bachelor (3 years), master (2) and doctorate (3) - is now quite firmly entrenched. In 2003, only 53 percent of universities reported that they were structured along Bologna guidelines, compared to 95 percent this year.

The data in the report also show that within universities, Bologna implementation has moved to a more comprehensive approach. Asked whether Bologna degree standards were in place for all departments, 77 percent reported yes, up from 55 percent just three years ago. And efforts to “harmonize” curricula and content are also being met, which has meant significant content restructuring at many universities.

Generally, the academics said that the emphasis on learning outcomes led to two related shifts. One was the development of more sophisticated quality control agencies and internal quality control mechanisms. The second was that more and more of the discussion among educators, especially with regard to bachelor’s degrees, focused on what students learn and the student experience.

March 9, 2010

International Graduate Students Find Europe More Appealing as a Study Destination than the U.S.

According to preliminary 2009 statistics compiled by QS, a private provider of higher education information services, North America continued the slide it has been on for a few years now with regards to how it is viewed as a study destination among prospective graduate students.

The analysis is based on information from the QS World Grad School Tour. The company takes universities wanting to attract graduates to student fairs it organizes in about 60 cities around the world each year. The information is provided by prospective students who must register on the company's website and complete a questionnaire to attend a fair. QS has consistent data for the past four years, obtained from 40,000 to 60,000 students annually.

"We've noticed that Europe is becoming more popular," says David McClelland, senior operations manager at the QS World Grad School Tour. In general, 33.5 percent of graduate applicants preferred North America (the US and Canada), and 57 percent Europe in 2009, against 39 percent and 50 percent respectively in 2007. The trend is clear across most regions.

- Independent
March 4, 2010


US and Germany Agree to Build Research Cooperation

A new framework agreement to expand research cooperation between the United States and Germany was signed by leaders from both countries in February. The agreement gives priority to research and development activities in the areas of energy, climate, the environment, and health. In addition, it calls for the establishment of a new body coordinated by the State Department and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research that will be responsible for identifying priorities, improving conditions for cooperation, and assessing the implementation of the agreement. 

With a view to paving the way towards enhanced cooperation, the agreement is to form the basis of new projects aimed at developing innovative ways of establishing joint norms and standards. The private sector will be involved in this process in order to improve the competitive position of participating companies as well as their market access in the United States.

Bilateral working groups of German and American scientists have already begun identifying future areas of possible cooperation in the fields of energy, climate research and health, including rare diseases and regenerative medicine.

February 18, 2010


Quality Assurance Agency to be Established

The Slovenian government has announced that it will establish the National Agency of the Republic of Slovenia for Quality Assurance in Higher Education to evaluate and accredit institutions and programs in the tertiary sector.

- Ministry of Higher Education and Research
December 30, 2009


Universities to Charge International-Student Fees from 2011

The Swedish government announced in February that, beginning in the fall of 2011, foreign students from outside the European Union, the European Economic Area, and Switzerland will be charged tuition to study at Swedish universities.

Sweden is one of a few European countries that still does not distinguish between domestic and foreign students when it comes to charging tuition fees. The number of foreign students enrolled at Swedish universities has tripled in the past decade as the number of English-taught programs has increased. Foreign students now count for 8 percent of total enrollments, which currently stand at approximately 350,000.

Individual institutions will be free to set their own tuition levels, "based on the principle of full-cost coverage," the government said. The new fees will apply only to students beginning their studies in 2011. The government is offering two scholarship schemes to help defray costs for eligible foreign students.

- Ministry of Education
February 19, 2010

United Kingdom

Huge Spike in Student-visa Applications from Northern India Prompts Temporary Suspension

The UK Border Agency in February temporarily suspended student visa applications from northern India, Nepal and Bangladesh after a huge spike in applications. In the last three months of 2009, there were 13,500 applications from northern India alone, compared with 1,800 in the same period of 2008, prompting a bottleneck in Britain’s visa-processing system and concerns over fraud.

Unscrupulous offers of visas as a way of settling in the UK are not uncommon among agents operating on the sub-continent. The visa-application system was suspended until the end of February, while extra checks were implemented in the interim. At the beginning of March the ban was lifted for students doing degree programs while the suspension remained in place for lower level programs until the implementation of a new college/university sponsorship system takes place. Nobody will be able to gain entry to study on a program below degree level unless they are at an institution on the newly established Highly Trusted Sponsors List, in a move designed to crack down on bogus colleges. Ministers said, however, that most if not all publicly funded universities and colleges would be on the list. This measure is part of broader students visa changes announced by the government in February (see below).

Under the new regulations, all UK study permit applicants are being assigned a unique virtual number known as the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). This number is assigned by the sponsor (university or college the student is admitted to) and will be linked to relevant data, such as the program of study and duration, which will be uploaded into a central data management system accessible by the UK Border Agency (UKBA). Once admitted to a college, the student would not be able to switch to another institution without reapplying for the study permit. Even if a student chooses to change programs within the institution, the information will be updated and will be accessible to UKBA. The new CAS system is designed to make it possible to track the activities of visa students while they are in the UK.

- The Telegraph
February 6, 2010

Revised Visa Regulations Require Better English Skills

The British government announced changes to visa rules for overseas students in February that will require students from outside the European Union to pass a more difficult English test, while those on non-degree programs will no longer be able to bring dependants and will be allowed to work just 10 hours a week.

But there will be no blanket ban on overseas students studying in the UK for qualifications below degree level, such as foundation programs or A levels, as had originally been feared by universities. The government had previously indicated that it would impose such a ban, which some universities feared would reduce their numbers of overseas students.

- The Times Higher Education Supplement
February 11, 2010

Glasgow Caledonian to Become First Scottish University to Offer Degrees in London

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) announced in February that in September it will become the first Scottish institution to offer academic programs in London. On offer will be a range of specialist graduate programs in business, finance and risk, in addition to continuing and professional development training programs. GCU is aiming for an initial intake of 100 students with a view to enrolling 300 within three years.

Professor Pamela Gillies, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of GCU, said “GCU London will enable us to enhance our profile and allow us to compete successfully in the global educational market. We are well-placed to succeed in this venture given our strong track record with an outreach college in Oman [Caledonian College of Engineering] and our more recent international activities in China.”

February 13, 2010

University Applications from Home and Abroad Skyrocket, Again

Recent figures from the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show another record year for applications to higher education - the fourth consecutive year that applications for full-time undergraduate studies have increased.

As of January 22, 2010 there were 570,556 applicants, a rise of 106,389 or 22.9 percent over 2009. Domestically, applications increased 22.1 percent, while overseas applicants who applied through UCAS rose a huge 28.7 percent (to 71,105). Leading countries of origin for overseas applicants were China and India, up by 22.4 percent and 30.8 percent respectively. Italy and Ireland increased by 50 percent each, and Latvia and Lithuania both more than doubled.

February 8, 2010

Report: Work on ‘Special Relationship’ with U.S. Universities or Lose It!

British universities have been told that their "special relationship" with U.S. institutions may be lost unless urgent action is taken to strengthen transatlantic ties. A report published in February by the British Council, UK-US Higher Education Partnership: Realising the Potential, finds that only a "limited number" of British universities have created successful partnerships with institutions in America.

Meanwhile, underinvestment in the relationship has encouraged competitors to move in. In the delivery of joint degrees with US institutions, the UK has fallen behind China, France, Germany, Mexico and South Korea, the report says.

To encourage transatlantic partnership building, the British Council in March launched the UK-US New Partnerships Fund, a $500,000 program to develop new strategic links between British and American higher education institutions. The British Council claims a close relationship with the US is "vital" for UK research. It calls for greater investment in marketing the UK overseas and says the British sector must better understand its American counterpart.

- British Council
February 2010